||[Mar. 17th, 2019|09:10 pm]
Saw a book titled "White Fragility". Got curious and looked up the author. Here she is giving a detailed presentation of her book at Seattle Public Library:|
I am intrigued by her arguments and frustrated that this is not a two-way conversation where I could examine them in more detail by asking questions. White people, she says, even progressive white people, get very defensive when they are being lectured/instructed about race and racism. — Well, yeah, because the words racism and racist function as a slur, like the word nazi does. — We should get rid of the binary thinking that racist means a bad person and non-racist means a good person, she says (obviously, not in order to exonerate racism, but to prevent knee-jerk defensive reactions from the white folks). The definition of a racist as an individual who consciously does not like people based on race and is intentionally mean to them is harmful, she says, because it implies intentionality that can be easily denied. — OK, why don’t you come up with a different term then, instead of changing the definition, and stop talking about racism when you mean something else? See how the "minority" communities are changing or banishing words ("homosexualism" in the Russian polite circles, and Negro probably universally?) in order to avoid stigma and advance conversation.
Here’s a curious way of developing an argument (at about 37 minutes):
Probably the number one color-blind racial narrative is: "I was taught to treat everyone the same"... Let me tell you, when I hear this from a white person, and I hear it frequently, there is a bubble over my head. And it has a few things in it. The first thing is, Oh, this person doesn't understand basic socialization. This person doesn't understand culture. Ooh, this person is not particularly self-aware. And I need to give a heads-up to white folks in the room, when people of color hear us say this, they are generally not thinking, All right, I am talking to a woke white person right now. Usually some form of eye-rolling. I recently co-facilitated with a black woman who said, That is the most dangerous white person to me... There is a question that never failed me in my efforts to uncover how we pull this off. And this question is not whether this is true or this is false, because if we apply this question we are going to argue and argue and argue. The question that has never failed me is, how do these narratives function in a conversation. And if we ask that question, we can see that all these narratives function to exempt the person from any part of the problem. All of them take race off the table, all of them close rather than open the exploration, and in doing that all of them protect the current hierarchy and the white position in it.
This reasoning has a noticeable postmodernist tang to it ("this question in not whether this is true or this is false", "how do these narratives function in a conversation"). Which, in a way, is interesting and exciting (I haven’t been exposed to coherent postmodernist reasoning much), but at the same time is deeply unsatisfying, because instead of addressing the question of whether people who think of themselves that they "treat everyone the same" (which, taken literally, is of course impossible, but is a useful shorthand for saying that race is not a factor in their interactions with others) delude themselves or not, it changes the question to how this claim functions in discourse.
Perhaps I should go ahead and just read her book... But then again, judging by her presentation, I am apprehensive that I will find it deeply unsatisfying.